Comstock renovation ‘substantially’ done
Hayden Turek photos
The renovation of the Comstock Community Center, which has been under construction since March 9, 2015, was “substantially” completed on Jan. 29. It’s ready to occupy, but there’s still a little work to be done.
“We achieved substantial completion on Jan. 29,” said project manager Stephen Giametta of Turner Construction. “That’s the date that’s recognized by both the Building Department and the architects of record.”
Giametta said that while he can’t say for sure exactly where they’ll land on the overall project budget — because, technically, the project isn’t done yet — he firmly believes it’ll be in the black.
“We will definitely be under budget,” Giametta said. “I can say that with extreme confidence. Since we have not finalized, we don’t know the final numbers yet.”
As of Jan. 31, according to the Comstock Building Committee’s monthly report, the project was under its $10,802,000 budget by $1,309,869.
The work that still needs to be done is minor, according to building committee chair Judy Zucker. It’s mostly “weather-related,” she said, and therefore cannot be undertaken until the spring.
So what’s new? Without expanding its footprint, Turner Construction, with the help of the Comstock Building Committee, made the following improvements to the Comstock Community Center.
Throughout the building, new HVAC unit ventilators have been installed. Before the renovation, the “west wing” of Comstock was without central air, and the gymnasium had no air conditioning whatsoever. For the senior center, which already had central air, this was an upgrade.
In the mechanical and electrical room at Comstock, which feeds heat and power to the entire center, the oil-fired boiler was replaced with two new gas boilers, and a new electrical system was installed.
An inverter system was also added so that in the event of normal power loss, if the generator were to fail also, some emergency circuits could remain live.
“You have your belt outside, and your suspenders in here — two systems to protect you in a power loss,” Giametta said.
Other overall improvements include the installation of a sprinkler-based fire protection system throughout the building, an upgraded fire alarm system, and the building-wide abatement of hazardous materials, like asbestos.
But not every part of Comstock got the same makeover. Here are some more area-specific improvements.
Throughout the west wing of the center, there are new lighting fixtures, ceilings, and flooring. Sheetrock now covers the old block walls in the west wing classrooms — rooms that all have new tables and chairs. The classrooms in the northern portion of the west wing have newly installed cabinetry.
The entire exterior wall of the west wing has been replaced with a glass mullion window wall. Before, it had precast walls with punched glass openings. The glass mullion system was also added for the lobby.
The women’s restroom in the west wing was reconfigured and relocated, and two individual occupancy restrooms were added.
A red, yellow and green color theme was introduced throughout the west wing and into the lobby.
“Very limited” work was done on the Comstock greenhouse, which lies within the west wing, Giametta said. Builders installed a new entryway and new exterior door, but it ends there.
There used to be an outdoor oil tank that fed two heaters in the greenhouse so it could run during the winter. As part of the project, Giametta said, the tank was removed and a new gas line was run from the utility room to the greenhouse.
A major change to the west wing was the addition of a “multi-purpose room.” Builders knocked down a partition between two classrooms to create a larger, more versatile space.
The multi-purpose room has new lighting as well as athletic flooring with a custom Wilton Warriors logo created by the flooring contractor, and it can be used for a variety of programs, according to Parks and Recreation Director Steve Pierce.
“It can be used for aerobics, it could be used for workout — baseball has worked out there — it’s going to be used for larger meetings. There’s a meeting of 50 in there tonight, so there’s a variety of things,” Pierce said on Monday. “It truly is a multi-purpose room.”
“It lives up to its billing,” Giametta said.
According to Giametta, the smaller east wing of Comstock, which houses the senior center, the dance studio, and the food pantry, will have new ceilings and lighting once the project is complete, but some of the rooms have not yet seen these improvements. All east wing rooms, save for two, already have new flooring.
The east wing elevator will also see upgrades, mainly ceiling and lighting upgrades, Giametta said, but this also is yet to have been completed.
A new senior center entrance was installed and a sign was added that reads “Senior Center.” The senior center’s kitchen was gutted and expanded, and now has all new appliances.
The senior center café, which is adjacent to the Comstock gymnasium, got its walls soundproofed because of that proximity. “The sound in the café from the gym has been greatly reduced,” said Liz Doty, senior activities coordinator.
One of the “prime” improvements to Comstock, Zucker said, was the addition of a handicapped-accessible downstairs bathroom in the east wing.
“The senior center now has three handicap-accessible restrooms, two on the main level and one on the lower level,” Zucker said. “Formerly, they had only one restroom on the main level.”
The east wing lower level houses the senior center game room and arts and crafts studio, rooms where some seniors — for whom climbing flights of stairs might be difficult — spend a good deal of their time.
In the east wing, the Youth Services offices, the Social Services offices, and the office of the coordinator of senior activities now have new carpeting.
Several east wing rooms have new furniture. The furniture in the senior center’s arts and crafts studio was donated by Wilton Continuing Education, which uses the space to teach classes.
A handicapped-accessible ramp with handrails was installed in the lower parking lot of the east wing to provide easier entry to the senior center.
Lobby, entrance and gymnasium
The front entrance to Comstock is almost entirely new. A new sidewalk was put in where the old sidewalk was failing, and handicapped egress and access were reconfigured.
A grand entryway was built, on new piers, with new doors, lighting, a canopy, and a sign that reads “Comstock Community Center.” West of the main entryway there is another, smaller revamped entrance.
Inside, in the lobby and waiting room, the Parks and Recreation Department offices, as well as the center’s program director’s office, were moved westward, redone and opened up. This allowed builders to enlarge the lobby without expanding the original footprint of the center.
“By re-situating the front entrance and offices, we created a larger lobby space,” Zucker said.
The back entrance to the lobby and patio were also redone.
As for the gymnasium, it received new athletic flooring, lighting, and for the first time, air conditioning.
New basketball rims and glass backboards were also installed. “People sitting behind them can now see through the glass,” Pierce said.
Outside Comstock, a playground and tar path were added. All departmental offices had their window shades upgraded.
The senior center technology room was relocated from the east wing to the west wing and expanded, and the infrastructure and wiring for that room were upgraded.
In the hallway that connects the west wing of Comstock to the Comstock lobby, a vinyl wallcovering featuring historical photographs was added, with help from Wilton Historical Society Executive Director Leslie Nolan and Harriett S. Taylor, archivist of the Wilton History Room at Wilton Library.
“Everybody appreciates that mural,” Giametta said.
According to Zucker, project volunteers will celebrate the completion of the renovation with an open house to be held sometime in May, depending on the weather in March and April.
Weather-related work that can’t be done until springtime includes repaving the parking lots, work on exterior soffits, and upgrades to the basketball court.
“I think the renovation has exceeded in a positive way what anyone imagined for the project,” Zucker said.
“We love it,” said Cathy Pierce, director of Wilton Social Services. “What a transformation. It’s really a pleasure to work here now. I love the hallways; I love the bathrooms; I love our kitchen, our new furniture — everything.”
Doty said the seniors are loving the renovations, too. “Especially the working heat and AC,” she said. “Those are the things that really mattered to us.”